Category Archives: Bitter/ESB/English Strong Ale

Cooper’s 2022 Vintage Ale

Rating:

“Each year, the Coopers brewing team creates a unique limited-edition Vintage Ale. This year’s Vintage Ale, the 22nd in the series, is characterised by its hop selection. The 2022 Vintage features El Dorado, an American dual-purpose hop with tropical, pear and stonefruit notes and Huell Melon, a German variety delivering fruit and berry flavours. The brew also uses Coopers Pale Malt. Coopers Managing Director and Chief Brewer, Dr Tim Cooper, said the 2022 Vintage Ale release exemplifies the brewery’s experience in developing of premium quality, limited edition beers.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Murky light brown complexion with the standard fusion of fine suspended sediment floating about. It forms a thumb of off white head which retains fairly well. Patchy lace sticks to the glass as it ebbs.

Aroma: Really harnessing ye olde English style here. We guess that’s what we love most about not only this seasonal release but Cooper’s Brewery as a whole. Showcasing a robust malt profile of bread/toast, caramel fudge and earthy grains but because it’s still so young the hop additions display bright fruity notes which brings a crucial balance to the nose.

Flavour: Wow those hops keep coming! We’d go as far as to say that the fruit and bitterness actually outweigh the malts here. Not quite to the point of an English IPA but it’s certainly close to it. It hits a crescendo of yellow grapefruit then the malts and the classic Cooper’s yeast take the baton and finish with a dry, toasty and grainy quality that lingers.

Mouthfeel: Chewy yet quite dry and sharp. Medium body. The 7.5% ABV shows up intermittently.

Overall: We’re in two minds. We like the bold hoppy characters but at the same time we were yearning for a malt bomb. Hey, it’s nothing a few years in the cellar can’t fix ?

Hargreaves Hill BA Double ESB

Rating:

“This Ale is an Imperial version of our ESB that has been aged in VSOP Brandy Barrels, and Bourbon Barrels before blending.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Murky deep amber kind of affair with a thumb of frothy off white head capping it off. Reasonable retention but scarce lace left on the glass.

Aroma: It’s pretty cool that they could even get their hands on ex VSOP barrels to begin with let alone use them for a Double ESB. It’s a risk we’re impressed by and it does actually work well. The distinct notes of baked apple/candied pear, vanilla and fresh apricot blend well with the sweet, bready/toasty and earthy notes of the ESB. Also some light florals and musky tones peeking through too.

Flavour: Again, lots of fruit, lots of sweetness and syrupy/sugary goodness but not a whole lot of balance unfortunately. We feel they’ve got a bit carried away with all the ingredients and it’s all sort of cancelled each other out. Galaxy and Mosaic hops (as brilliant as they are) are probably a bit too fancy for this style of beer and the bourbon gets completely overshadowed by the VSOP. Not to mention the classic ESB notes are hide to locate.

Mouthfeel: Nice weight to it. Smooth and rounded, slightly lifted Co2, medium body. The 9% ABV was very well hidden.

Overall: We rate Hargreaves Hill highly and we really wanted to like this but it just didn’t cut the mustard. Big points for securing ex VSOP barrels but it all felt out of sync as a whole.

Garage Project ‘Epuni Street Bitter’ ESB

Rating:

“Brewed for Ale + Gravy 91 Aro, 2021 (part of WOAP). Epuni Street is a particularly iconic street in Aro Valley. It is, notably, the host of the annual Compost Parade. “Each year on the Sunday after the Equinox, the simple but beautiful cycle that creates compost is celebrated and in true Aro style there is music, food and costumes. The Compost Parade has become a popular event in the past few years, bringing together compost lovers from all over Wellington.” The parade is in September, features a Golden Compost Bucket which is ceremoniously carried up the street and GP usually shouts a bunch of flagons to this noble cause. It has been running for 8 years!”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Gorgeous amber pour with a faint ruby red tint when held to the light. A thumb of creamy off white head settles on top and weaves a fine lace down the glass.

Aroma: We were quietly hoping it was going to be a conventional take on an ESB and it is exactly that. At its core is a beautifully sweet and chewy caramel malt profile which offers up nuanced toffee, maple and buttery biscuits. Exquisitely balanced by the earthy hops though, and further offset by the classic spicy and herbal characters of EKG and Fuggles. Supoib!

Flavour: One of those rare moments where it’s too well balanced! When it comes to ESB’s we love them more on the malty side with the bitterness tucked in behind. The earthy hops/bitterness is a tad too prominent here in our opinion. Still, it has a nice chewy caramel malt backing, some dark fruits and toast along with the spicy and delicate florals/herbals from the hops. Nice dry and bitter finish with some malt sweetness to balance.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, chewy and a little sticky. Medium body. Perfect carbonation and ABV (5.5%).

Overall: What was shaping up to be a sensational ESB kind of fell away a bit in the middle unfortunately. That aside, it’s still a reasonably good interpretation of the style.

Durham Brewery ‘Evensong’ English Bitter

Rating:

“The recipe is based upon an original beer made by Whitakers of Halifax in 1937. A smooth well balanced traditional ruby bitter. Five different malts including crystal and amber create a rich toffee/cherry flavour. Earthy Fuggles and Goldings hops combine in a smooth English character with hints of kiwifruit and toffee.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Slightly muddy light mahogany pour with a ruby/red hue. It forms a frothy three finger head which slowly deconstructs and leaves healthy lacing on the glass.

Aroma: It’s like a fruity malt bomb. At first we’re detecting sweet dark fruits like plum, raisin and blood orange but as it settles it develops more strawberry/overripe cherry notes. Truck loads of caramel and toffee apple with delicate hints of blackcurrant, freshly cut grass, earthy spice and jam on toast. A rather complex aroma and we dig it!

Flavour: It’s much more carbonated than we had anticipated. Quite a well balanced flavour profile though – sweet dark fruits and caramelised crystal malts are perfectly countered by the grassy, spicy and earthy hops. A very mild toasty-ness through the mid and it develops a slightly burnt toffee late in the piece which performs another key balancing act to the sweet, malty finish.

Mouthfeel: As we touched on before it’s overly carbonated…too much for our liking. Mild-medium body, 5% ABV. The texture is sticky and a little chewy.

Overall: Not all that fussed with this offering. Durham are one of our favourite English breweries but this seems a little off the mark. Not sure if it has a small infection or not as well. If it does and it still drinks this well then they must be commended.

Fuller’s 2021 Vintage Ale

Rating:

“Now on its 25th edition, 2021 is a landmark year for Vintage Ale. At its heart, Pale Ale and Caragold malts combine with DRC®(Double Roasted Crystal), to deliver a toffee and raisin sweetness. Turning to hops, we’re showcasing younger UK varieties for their luscious fruitiness. Endeavour brings plummy tones, while Olicana® and the yet unnamed experimental hop CF182 add tropical and orange notes. All complemented, as ever, by the zesty marmalade character of our famous Fuller’s yeast.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Light ruby red pour with an amber gradient towards the edges. A rocky two finger head forms on top and gradually retreats, leaving a lacey mess on the glass.

Aroma: Up until now we’ve only ever drunk a Vintage Ale with age on it so we’re chomping at the bit to finally try one this young. It has the same rich and sweet malt base but the big difference is the hop profile…it’s alive! The Target and Endeavour hops bring the classic floral, spicy and herbal notes but the Olicana (previously used in the ’18 Vintage) and an unnamed “CF 182” adds a fresh and fruity edge to it. Digging it.

Flavour: So much firmer when it’s young (just like us humans right? ?). There’s without a doubt a sharper bitterness plus the 8.5% ABV has some bite. Still getting a lot of earthy hop character, toast, subtle dark fruits and herbals to reassure the die-hards that it’s still purely English at heart. Not to mention a deliciously malty finish that lingers.

Mouthfeel: Super smooth, slick and rounded. Low-ish Co2, medium-full body. 8.5% ABV, comes through intermittently.

Overall: You know what the similarities to wine are intriguingly comparable on many levels. One thing that doesn’t surprise us is that this series of English ales are much more charismatic when they’ve been laid down for a while. Still, a very impressive offering.

Fuller’s ‘Golden Pride’ English Strong Ale

Rating:

“Golden Pride guarantees a superb range of flavours, that is sure to satisfy even the most discerning of palates. Our brewers describe Golden Pride thus: ‘ deep amber in appearance, Golden Pride is full bodied, of moderate bitterness, moderately hopped and rich in malt. Full flavoured, and reminiscent of sweet orange oil, toasted grains, and bread. Rich malty aromas lead to a similarly styled palate, with an intense finish. Sweet and bitter flavours are expressed in good balance in this weighty brew.’ Or as the late Michael Jackson, beer writer and connoisseur, put it: ‘the Cognac of beers’.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Magnificent looking beer: somewhat light chestnut hue with soft red highlights. It caps off with a thumb of tan foam which slowly recedes. Fine lacing as we imbibe.

Aroma: Equally magnificent as the looks. A straight up and down bread bomb with a good helping of dark fruits and liqueur to sweeten the deal. The longer it sits in the glass the more it becomes like a deliciously decadent English Barleywine – massive malt foundations with tonnes of residual sweetness and warming booze. We’re loving this!

Flavour: Exactly how we wanted it to taste. Uber sweet and kinda toasty malt profile but nicely balanced by the Golding/Challenger/Target hops which provide ye Olde marmalade, herbal, floral and spicy vibes. There’s also a big dark fruit presence i.e raisin, dates, plum, even venturing into Port and dessert wine territory at times. Nice little roasty/toasty aspect to balance out the decadent finish.

Mouthfeel: Super smooth and velvety, well rounded and sticky. Medium-full body, mild-moderate Co2. The 8.5% ABV slots in so perfectly.

Overall: We were searching for the one perfect word to sum this up but it doesn’t exist so the short version is pure elegance, complexity and just good old fashioned class. Top shelf stuff.

Five Barrel ‘London Calling’ ESB

Rating:

“This is an English Style Ale known for its balance between malt and hop
bitterness. ESB’s have an earthy, herbal English-variety hop character. with a medium to high hop bitterness, flavour and aroma.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Pours a redolent deep amber with full transparency. It only manages a short khaki head that peels off rather quickly. Nice wavy lace being strewn down the glass.

Aroma: Smells pretty good on face value. Well balanced, sweet, toasty and spicy with those brilliant EKG and Fuggles hops throwing out the earthy herbals and wet grass. Lots of caramel sweetness and toffee, dark fruits like golden raisins and blood plum, caramelised pear/apple and marmalade on toast. We didn’t realise it at first but it’s actually quite a complex number with good depth.

Flavour: Follows on from the nose – a supremely balanced blend of sweet, toasty and biscuit malts with the herbal, grassy and citrusy hops to counter it all. A delicate bitterness and earthy dark fruits push through the middle and lay down for a really dry, bitter yet mildly sweet and citrusy finish which lingers.

Mouthfeel: Slick, a little sticky and chewy. Mild-moderate carbonation, medium body. Only 4.3% ABV which is pretty low for an ESB.

Overall: To pick up again on the low ABV…for ESB’s we expect to see it land between 5-6%. At 4.3% we’d be calling it a straight English Bitter in our opinion. It still drinks like an ESB though; nice and plump, full flavoured and slightly complex…just without the higher ABV ?

Bad Shepherd ‘Aries’ ESB

Rating:

“The long-awaited return of our ESB is finally here with a new name and fresh look. Originally launched in 2016 as part of our Brew Crew Series, our take on the traditional British style Extra Special Bitter pours a beautiful rusty hue with subtle hints of caramel and biscuit malt, and a delightfully creamy mouthfeel. The name is a nod to the mighty Ram; a symbol synonymous with change and as we leave 2020 in our dust, we are all looking forward to that.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Bold amber with full clarity. It whips up a two finger head which holds for a little while but eventually peels off. Nice webbed lace clings to the glass as we imbibe.

Aroma: It’s noticeably sweet but with a soft touch of toasty malt which takes some of the edge off the heady caramels, toffee and honeysuckle. Quite musky and floral with a distinct Noble hop-like quality which provides earthy and herbal accents. Slightly syrupy/cloying which is a shame though. It ain’t bad just seems a little off the pace.

Flavour: Delivered with a lot more balance. We’re getting more of a robust earthy-ness which counters the malt sweetness nicely. Mild orange citrus, musk/florals, honey and toasty malts through the mid then rolling into a nice toasty finish with delicate caramel sweetness and earthy herbals drawing out on the back end.

Mouthfeel: Slick but still somewhat crisp and clean. Moderately bodied, finely carbonated. 4.9% ABV is about on par for the style.

Overall: It’s a fairly decent crack at an ESB but it doesn’t really cut the mustard unfortunately. Maybe it’s all these Fuller’s Vintage Ales we’ve been treating ourselves to lately that’s set the bar too high! Not bad but not great either.

Fuller’s 2015 Vintage Ale

Rating:

Get your hands on the limited-edition Vintage Ale 2015 – a beautiful beer brewed celebrating the 50th anniversary of famous British malt variety Maris Otter and brewed using exclusively British ingredients. The floor-malted Maris Otter is combined with home-grown Target, Northdown, Challenger and Goldings hops to create a best-of-British beer with complex flavours, a fruitful aroma and a bitter finish.

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Like its younger siblings this ’15 vintage pours a muddy light brown with a short khaki head which fades pretty quickly. Minimal lace as we go.

Aroma: Seriously, this vintage series is the pinnacle of English brewing. The rich concoction of residual sugars, toffee and toasted malt, earthy and slightly fruity hops is simply glorious. One of the aspects we’ve loved the most is the quasi-Belgian yeast profile which throws out this distinct dark fruity sweetness. It’s divine. Hell, the whole series is divine!

Flavour: Amazing. Theres a kinda yeasty fruit profile, rich toffee and caramel, toasty and doughy malts, residual sugars and earthy hops which all converge and dance on the palate like there’s a rave party in the mouth. It continues with this semi sweet, savoury biscuity quality that joins the rest of the party and finishes with it all hanging to the back palate for dear life!

Mouthfeel: Smooth, velvety, slightly creamy. Medium-full body. Once again the 8.5% ABV is nowhere to be found. Incredible.

Overall: We’ve now found it. This one is the pick of the bunch. Could it be that the older they get the better? It sure looks that way. What’s depressing is we can’t find a bottle of ’14 or earlier anywhere *sad face. Absolutely superb.

Fuller’s 2016 Vintage Ale

Rating:

The 20th limited-edition beer in our Vintage Ale series, Vintage Ale 2016 is a rich, smooth Barley Wine that promises a distinguished drinking experience. Packaged in our signature Vintage Ale gift box, it’s a special beer inside and out, perfect as a gift or to add to your own collection. Brewed to 8.5% , Vintage Ale 2016 brings together classic British ingredients with the aromatic Nelson Sauvin hop from New Zealand  – used here both for bittering and as a dry hop. The global combination of ingredients gives rise to a rich and complex amber beer, with aromas of sherry and Cognac, and a flavour profile that picks out toasted grains and sweet cherry Bakewell Tart.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Quite a muddy number this one. Kinda light brown centre working out to rusted amber edges. It forms a thumb of light tan head which slowly retracts. Spotty and wet lace trails it down.

Aroma: We’re noticing that as we go further back in this spectacular vintage series the more Barleywine-like they become. This ’16 vintage is certainly showing some residual sweetness along with hearty toffee/caramel, buttered bread, marmalade and yeast-driven fruit esters. For this vintage they’ve added Nelson Sauvin hops (apparently!?). They’re very hard to detect but there is a very subtle hint of white grape coming through.

Flavour: So satisfyingly English. And so savoury! Oodles of residual sugars and caramel malts, toffee, doughy bread pudding, toast, buttery biscuits, marmalade and golden syrup. There are some fleeting hints of earthy hop but the typical attributes of Nelson Sauvin are pretty much MIA. Raisin is as close to grapes as we can get. That aside, it’s still an absolutely amazing flavour profile.

Mouthfeel: Sticky and gelatinous, medium-full body and soft carbonation. Like past vintages the 8.5% ABV is remarkably well hidden.

Overall: Brilliant. We reckon it’s safe to say this is our pick of the bunch so far (between the ’16-’20). It straddles the line between English strong ale and Barleywine and the result is outstanding.

Fuller’s 2018 Vintage Ale

Rating:

This year’s Vintage Ale is a celebration of Fuller’s long-lasting friendships with the hop growers, merchants, and maltsters of the UK. It has been brewed using exclusively home-grown ingredients. The beer’s passionfruit, grapefruit and mango notes might be synonymous with the ‘new-world’ hops of America and Australia, but the beer’s tropical flavours, in fact, come from the British Olicana® variety. Alongside Olicana®, Ernest hop from Kent has been added to the brew – a variety that brings apricot, citrus and spicy notes. There are also herby, pine and earthy flavours to discover, from the classic combination of Target, Goldings, Challenger and Northdown hops.

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Somewhat rusty amber pour with a short khaki head which slowly peels off. It settles at the rim and drags a wet lace down the glass.

Aroma: Crammed full of the classic EKG and Challenger hop qualities; earthy, herbal spice and grassy but accentuated with a lesser known British hop named ‘Olicana’ which is said to offer passionfruit, grapefruit and mango…all of which are quite hard to detect through the big and beautiful Maris Otter-driven malt profile. Love!

Flavour: Simply amazing. Rich and savoury sweet. Jam packed with nutty malts, toffee/caramel, buttery biscuits and brown leather. Kinda sweet and earthy apricot, orange citrus and raisins fanning out to more greener notes of pine and old herbs as it nears the finish. Definitely ends much sweeter with an emphasis on this syrupy/fruity note which lingers.

Mouthfeel: Smooth and silky texture. Flat-ish Co2, medium body. Seriously can’t believe it weighs in at 8.5% ABV. So well buried.

Overall: Full credit to these masters. Sometimes the old world styles need to be paid the respect they deserve. And this one is due for some honours. Superb.

Fuller’s 2017 Vintage Ale

Rating:

“As the new Head Brewer, this 2017 edition of Vintage Ale champions a new American hop variety Denali, used to give the beer a citrusy, pine-like flavour and a new British malt variety Laureate. Combined with trusty British hops Target and Goldings, our 21st Vintage Ale is a well-rounded and balanced beer with Fuller’s yeast adding the orange, marmalade characters to it.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Slightly muddy copper pour with a short fizzy head which quickly disappears. Next to no lace as we go.

Aroma: The classic sweet malts come to the forefront bringing toffee, caramel fudge and rich butterscotch. Not as much toast and nutty malts as your typical English ale though, they’re replaced by residual sugars, port, raisin, dates/prunes and jaffa. Even after all these years it still holds on to some hop character too – a touch of sweet orange and candied lemon, herbs and spice. Impressive.

Flavour: It’s like this thick, earthy and malty presence that masquerades as a Barleywine but is light enough to pass as an ESB. All the while offering your classic English particulars like toffee apple, caramel, marmalade, orange citrus, biscuits, fruit cake and ginger-like spice. It’s amazing…it keeps this intensity of flavour all the way through to the finish.

Mouthfeel: Dense and meaty. Quite surprised by the Co2…it’s fairly active for the style. 8.5% ABV is so well concealed.

Overall: Well well, what a beer. We only just tried the 2019 vintage a week ago and now we’re on a mission to try them all. This 2017 vintage is immaculate. Who’d have thought we’d be giving brewery of the month to Fuller’s! Completely deserved though.

Fuller’s London Pride

Rating:

“London Pride is a smooth and astonishingly complex beer, which has a distinctive malty base complemented by a rich balance of well developed hop flavours from the Target, Challenger and Northdown varieties in the brew.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Beautiful deep amber hue with full transparency. It forms a thumb of off white head which gradually peels off. It drags a wet lace down the glass.

Aroma: The first thing that strikes us is the impeccable balance. She’s obviously malt-driven…dominated by the sweet caramel and toffee, bready and nutty malts but the citrusy, earthy and kinda spicy hops cut through it like butter. Certainly picking up the fruity/estery yeast as it’s offering up hints of banana, apple/pear and rosewater. There’s even a flutter of umami! Incredible.

Flavour: It follows on from the nose with that exquisite balance. Just as the sweet, bready and nutty malts start to tip the scales the hops counteract with notes of orange citrus, marmalade and more of an earthy spice late in the piece. And keeping with the flow of the beer those sweet malts return to deliver a beautifully balanced finish with excellent duration.

Mouthfeel: Slick, gelatinous, medium bodied. Co2 is perfectly weighted. 4.7% ABV. Everything just screams balance with this beer.

Overall: This is the epitome of English ale. Well structured malt bill with just enough hops to keep it in check. Full flavoured yet somehow sessional. No wonder they call it “London Pride”…plenty to be proud of with this. Top shelf.

Fuller’s 2019 Vintage Ale

Rating:

“For the Vintage Ale 2019, we have traveled 12,000 miles for inspiration, as West London meets South Island New Zealand. Wai-Iti hop brings mandarin, lemon, and lime to the fore, whilst Crystal malt – grown on the New Zealand’s Canterbury Plains – adds notes of toasted bread and honey. Looking a little closer to home, our famous Fuller’s yeast gives the beer its familiar orange marmalade backbone.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: An attractive burnished chestnut with a short khaki head. It quickly retreats to the rim with minimal lace in its wake.

Aroma: A dead set malt bomb but we dig it! Initially it’s all about the super sweet toffee, raisin, dates/prunes, butterscotch and floral honey but as it settles it takes on more of a dry-aged character with hints of old oak, licorice, tobacco and banana bread…although the latter is probably representative of the old world English yeast. Mild spicy and citrusy hop qualities in the background. Superb!

Flavour: It’s a mirror image of the aroma but we must admit there’s a lot more earthy-ness and hop bitterness setting it apart. Alas, tonnes of dark fruit sweetness, honey, caramel, toffee and buttery biscuits alongside the floral and citrusy hops and somewhat fruity yeast profile. There’s a long drawn out finish of toast, orange blossom and dried wood which punctuates beautifully.

Mouthfeel: Fairly chewy, dense and silky. Medium-full body, mild-moderate Co2. The 8.5% ABV is perceptible but mostly well contained.

Overall: Believe it or not this is our first crack at the Fuller’s vintage range. Damn we wish we jumped on sooner as this is amazing! It’s rich, warming, sweet yet a little bitter and earthy. Brilliant.

Coniston Brewing ‘Bluebird’ Bitter

Rating:

“It is, quite simply, a wonderful beer. It is exceedingly pale (21-22 units colour), with just a hint of colour in its cheeks from the dash of crystal malt. It has a massive orange fruit aroma from the challengers, balanced by biscuity malt. Juicy malt and tart hops vie for attention in the mouth while the finish is tart and hoppy but well balanced by creamy malt. The bitterness rating is a substantial 36-38. The tangy fruit lingers on the back of the tongue until it develops a hint of orange liqueur.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Clear bold amber with a short white head which quickly retracts. Not a lot of lace is left in its wake.

Aroma: Slightly muted notes of semi sweet honey malts, light musky florals, peppery spice, somewhat earthy hops and cereal grains. It all started off a little shy but as we go it starts to come out of its shell. How ironic that we’re talking about a beer in that fashion!

Flavour: Very much like the aroma…soft and almost watered down notes of caramel and honey mix with earthy and floral hops. A flutter of herbal spice here and there as well. Some toast and cereal grains coming through as it finishes rather vague and bland. Not a great deal of length to it either.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, silky, maybe just a tad lean but it is only 4.2% ABV. Flat-ish Co2, moderately bodied. A bit meh.

Overall: It’s all a bit meh to be honest. It’s very weak and insipid at times. The upside is that it does hit the traditional English ale features but it’s just too shy for our liking. Won’t be wasting our time on this one again.

Black Sheep ‘Riggwelter’ English Strong Ale

Rating:

“Riggwelter takes its name from a local Yorkshire Dales farming term which has Nordic roots; “rygg” meaning back, and “velte” meaning to overturn. A sheep is said to be rigged or ‘riggwelted’ when it has rolled onto its back and is unable to get back up without assistance. What better name for a strong beer from the Black Sheep Brewery in Yorkshire, eh?!”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Gorgeous deep crimson pour with two fingers of finely beaded foam resting atop. Excellent retention and healthy lace clinging to the glass as it ebbs.

Aroma: We already love it as we can smell it as it sits idle on the table. Below the nostrils it offers an intense array of sweet malts and floral and fruity hops. Oodles of caramel, toffee, dark fruits like raisin, dates and plum, light florals, variants of orange citrus like blossom, marmalade and flambèed. Getting this scent of burnt butter and mushrooms? Kinda nice though.

Flavour: She’s actually richer and more complex on the palate. It almost reaches Dark Ale level with its heavy caramel, toffee and lightly roasted malts. Still plenty of dark fruit sweetness but the burnt toast, coffee and cocoa through the mid adds another dimension to this already brilliant beer. Then throw this almost funky English yeast in the mix and we have one smashing beer.

Mouthfeel: Chewy and gelatinous yet still quite crisp and perfectly balanced. Medium body, flat-ish Co2. 5.7% ABV is nicely disguised.

Overall: We’re absolutely loving our English ales lately. They’re such an underappreciated style and when they’re done this well you just have to appreciate it. Superb.

Timothy Taylor’s ‘Boltmaker’ Yorkshire Bitter

Rating:

“A well-balanced, genuine Yorkshire Bitter, with a full measure of maltiness and hoppy aroma – Boltmaker is first choice for the discerning drinker – on both sides of the Pennines. Formerly known as Best Bitter, Boltmaker has won many awards over the years but most recently it was awarded the CAMRA Supreme Champion Beer of Britain in 2014 and Champion Beer of Britain – Bitter category in 2016.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Bold amber with full transparency. It forms a thumb of khaki head which hangs around. Nice webbed lace as we imbibe.

Aroma: Smells absolutely amazing. Malty sweet but nicely balanced by the spicy and herbal old world hops. It really is the malt show though…packed full of caramel, toffee, nuts, toast/doughy bread and sweet dark fruits i.e raisin, prunes/dates and fig. A faint hint of marmalade in there too. Top shelf stuff.

Flavour: English ale at its finest. The palate is swamped with sweet malts ranging from caramel, butterscotch, dried dark fruits and nuts but it’s kept in check by a fine hop bitterness along with orange peel, spice and earthy herbals. Beautifully balanced finish with lingering notes of wheatmeal biscuits and toast.

Mouthfeel: Nice and full yet still light on…the bitterness certainly helping there. Moderate Co2. Only 4.2% ABV so well in to session territory.

Overall: An absolute corker of a beer. The epitome of English ale – easy drinking, sweet but balanced and highly palatable. Brilliant.

Cooper’s 2020 ‘Vintage Ale’ English Strong Ale

Rating:

“The 2020 release of our much-loved Vintage Ale had to be special to recognise the 20th brew of one of our most famous ales. The Coopers brewing team has revelled in the challenge of making an authentic Vintage Ale with that special twist we have become accustomed to. A special ‘Leabrook’ barley from the Adelaide Hills was chosen to create the Pale malt for this brew and, when combined with crystal and wheat malt, provides a smooth mouthfeel and a fine creamy head.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Kinda muddy light brown with toffee highlights. It manages a short beige head which slowly peels off. Nice wavy lace clings to the sides of the glass.

Aroma: A proper malt bomb but that’s exactly what we were expecting. The fact that it’s still pretty green means it’s displaying a fair bit of earthy and floral hop but the lovely nutty, toasty and toffee-laden malts take centre stage. The classic Cooper’s yeast in all of its estery glory plays a big part too. Solid!

Flavour: It’s definitely a bit more bitter than we expected… probably due to its freshness again but the earthy, floral and grassy hops certainly provide a heady dryness that counteracts the toasty malts. Burnt toffee, cocoa, carob and toast finish with a nice dry grassiness in the tail.

Mouthfeel: Chewy and well rounded with a defined bitterness in the swallow. Medium-full body with low-ish Co2. 7.5% ABV is slightly noticeable.

Overall: Probably not our most favoured vintage.. which works with the sort of year we’ve all had anyway, so it’s fitting right?? Not bad.

Fuller’s ‘Past Masters – 1909’ English Strong Ale

Rating:

“A smooth, well balanced and fruity beer. 1909 Pale Ale is the Tenth beer in our celebrated Past Masters series, which sees long-lost recipes revived from our famous brew books. Every single afternoon since 1845, the Fuller’s brewing team has diligently written out the ingredients of the day’s brews – and the Past Masters series is a great example of why we do it.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Golden amber with a fluffy two finger head. Good retention and lots of spotty lace as it ebbs.

Aroma: Initially we pick up a certain tangy orange note which reminds us of Jaffa. It morphs in to marmalade and then eventually apricot/rockmelon. It has a bit of a syrupy note which we’re not totally fond of. It’s quite yeasty too, providing estery pear/apple, butterscotch and banana. Very chewy and doughy malt profile filling it out.

Flavour: The yeast esters are even more pronounced here – banana, apple/pear, tangy orange, chewy caramels and butterscotch. Again the syrupy sweetness is a little cloying. Doughy malts providing a hint of toasty-ness as it finishes a little sticky and sweet with hints of candied orange and banana.

Mouthfeel: Surprisingly light for its size. – 8.7% ABV. A little chewy and gelatinous, flat-ish Co2.

Overall: It has traits of our very own Cooper’s Vintage Ale (which personally we think is better than this). Love the acknowledgement to the history of this brewery but the actual beer itself doesn’t really float our boat.

Durham Brewery ‘Cloister’ Premium Bitter

Rating:

“A simple malt grist of maris otter pale malt and a small amount of crystal malt is bittered and aromatized by a complex addition of a unique blend of hops. English, Czech and American hops mingle throughout the boil to give a heady flowery aroma, and a tantalising peachy flavour, offset by a refreshing degree of bitterness. Despite its complexity this beer is clean and thirst quenching.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Amber with a soft orange tint. It produced two fingers of finely beaded foam and retains nicely. Webbed lace clings to the glass as it subsides.

Aroma: So satisfyingly English. In this day and age of crazy hopped out juicy oat cream hazy IPA’s it’s very refreshing to take in such a traditional aroma profile. Super earthy, lots of orange citrus/marmalade, a touch of candied lemon, black pepper, mixed berries, mildew, basil and mild lychee or watermelon. Love it! Love a good English bitter.

Flavour: Again, the earthy-ness is the integral part. Surrounding it is the semi sweet orange citrus and berries and the subtle spicy herbs i.e basil, coriander and rocket there in the background. The classic toasty/bready malt counteracts it all beautifully. Citrus comes back in to the fold before it wraps up with a grassy/herbaceous finish which endures.

Mouthfeel: Fairly smooth and inoffensive. Slightly dry post swallow. Medium body and Co2. Only 4.5% ABV so it’s certainly in session territory.

Overall: Just a lovely English pale. Conventional and impeccably balanced yet chock full of flavour and aroma. Our first entry for this British brewery and we’re impressed.